Commitment to the living and the dead requires immense responsibility! The time is the mid-1800s, a time when women are expected to be flighty and gracious, with very little contribution to serious scientific or even spiritual thought. Clara Gill is a recluse whose scandal of long ago haunts her so that she appears insane while living in a highly intelligent and wise world of inner reflection. Maggie and Kate Fox seem to possess a gift to discern the meaning of ghostly “rappings.” America is being drawn into the advent of Spiritualism, a growing movement orchestrated by Leah Fox, their motherly and ambition-driven sibling. The evidence is powerful for judging Clara and the Fox siblings as evil, yet there is something so profound in the truths they utter that suspicion dims and national attention hurtles into their lives.

Captivity catches the intriguing quality of a new spirituality of the dead and development of the field of natural philosophy, both presented as model specimens quivering with vibrant life even as they are pinned helplessly onto a board for public viewing. Scientists, politicians and ministers of the day depict traditional belief threatened with change and in danger of being left behind. The brief mention accorded many notable American characters is far from flattering but mildly humorous, albeit laced with piercing satire. The pervading atmosphere of required “courtship” only serves to strengthen the vigorous plot. Told in a haunting, multi-narrative voice style, Captivity is a phenomenal, literate read packed with mystery, suspense, compassion, intrigue and fear threading stories within stories of this brilliant novel – indeed of those revolutionary times.



Share this review

Buy "The Beggar at the Gate & Other Stories" for £2.05 (Kindle edition)

12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







(US) $25.95

(US) 9781936071630




Appeared in

Reviewed by